Meet a fam­ily forged by loss and visit the home they built with love.

What’s old be­comes new in a house that loss and love built.


My hus­band, Rob­bie, and I call our home Hav­i­lah, a He­brew word with a dou­ble mean­ing: “writhing in pain” and “to bring forth.” It es­sen­tially sig­ni­fies the mak­ing of some­thing beau­ti­ful through in­tense pain, such as child­birth. In our case, Hav­i­lah rep­re­sents the com­ing to­gether of two fam­i­lies fol­low­ing the loss of loved ones.

My first hus­band died in a car ac­ci­dent, and Rob­bie’s wife was taken by melanoma. Our com­mon ex­pe­ri­ence be­came a launch­ing point for our bud­ding ro­mance. Just a few months af­ter meet­ing, we mar­ried. Rob­bie packed up his teenage son and two dogs and moved in with me and my two preschool­ers. (He also has an older mar­ried son.)

It didn’t take long to re­al­ize we needed a place we could all call home, so we de­cided to build a house in the coun­try. Every­one thought we were crazy to sub­ject a new mar­riage to the stress such a project can bring. In­stead, it gave us a united goal, and we dis­cov­ered a mu­tual love for giv­ing old things new life. We bonded over an­tique-hunt­ing, brows­ing flea mar­kets and call­ing out bids at the auc­tion house.

To­day our house is filled with a con­glom­er­a­tion of his, mine and ours. Vis­i­tors of­ten say how homey the house feels even though it’s new. Al­though I dis­play more things than most peo­ple—I don’t like to hide them in the at­tic—I keep the look or­derly. That makes ev­ery­thing ap­pear pur­pose­ful, which is im­por­tant to us since we put our heart and soul into ev­ery de­tail. Each spe­cial find, no mat­ter how old or bro­ken, has the po­ten­tial to be­come some­thing new again.

Tragedy brought our fam­ily to­gether, but we didn’t build our home to for­get the past. We built it to bring life from the ashes, to cel­e­brate hope. It is a place of be­long­ing, a place to cel­e­brate life and where we all cling to the prom­ise of a fu­ture.

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